A large scale test of the gaming-enhancement hypothesis

Abstract

A growing research literature suggests that regular electronic game play and game-based training programs may confer practically significant benefits to cognitive functioning. Most evidence supporting this idea, the gaming-enhancement hypothesis, has been collected in small-scale studies of university students and older adults. This research investigated the hypothesis in a general way with a large sample of 1,847 school-aged children. Our aim was to examine the relations between young people’s gaming experiences and an objective test of reasoning performance. Using a Bayesian hypothesis testing approach, evidence for the gaming-enhancement and null hypotheses were compared. Results provided no substantive evidence supporting the idea that having preference for or regularly playing commercially available games was positively associated with reasoning ability. Evidence ranged from equivocal to very strong in support for the null hypothesis over what was predicted. The discussion focuses on the value of Bayesian hypothesis testing for investigating electronic gaming effects, the importance of open science practices, and pre-registered designs to improve the quality of future work.

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